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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.82%
Average: 11.62%
Pretty Bad: 8.3%
Total Crap: 8.71%

8 reviews, 193 user ratings

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Butterfly Effect, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Points for trying. But it could've hit a lot harder."
3 stars

Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) wants what we've all wanted, even if only fleetingly, at one time or another -- to go back in time and change things in our lives for the better. Evan, however, can actually do it, though he soon wishes he couldn't.

The Butterfly Effect follows Evan as he ping-pongs through time and space, revisiting the disasters of his childhood and adolescence and trying to change a detail here and there to make everything turn out differently. The movie, a first feature by writers/directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (who wrote Final Destination 2), tries hard to be affecting and mind-blowing, and sometimes it comes close. But most of it is a very remote head game, a screenwriters' exercise that sounds better on paper than it plays.

Some of the horrors in Evan's past include being forced into doing homemade kiddie porn at age eight (Eric Stoltz gives a rather one-note, transparent performance as the sicko behind the camcorder), watching his beloved dog go up in flames, and taking part in a prank that goes tragically wrong. Evan is subject to blackouts at key moments during these traumas, and he later finds that if he reads from one of his journal entries from those days he can transport himself back to the traumatic event and do his best to alter it. Of course, every time he changes something, he wakes up in a whole other reality that came about because of the change, sometimes worse off than before.

The throughline in all of this is Kayleigh (played in adulthood, and in variations ranging from a cheerful sorority sister to a heroin-addicted hooker, by the appealing Amy Smart), Evan's childhood love. The problem is, the movie is so busy skipping between timelines that it never establishes a core reality in which we can believe in the bond between Evan and Kayleigh. Ashton Kutcher (making a credible dramatic debut) and Amy Smart are affectionate together, though in most of their scenes Evan doesn't know what's going on and Kayleigh doesn't know why he's so clueless.

The changes affect other people in Evan's life. There's Kayleigh's cartoonishly sadistic brother, and another kid who is or isn't emotionally scarred for life by the disastrous prank, and big Ethan Suplee as a goth who is or isn't Evan's roommate. Evan keeps going back, and everyone keeps getting affected one way or another. Evan hits bottom when he's sent to prison for murder, but by then we know all he has to do is read from his journals to escape that reality (the method by which he does it, after some skinheads steal the journals, is somewhat clever), so we know things won't suck for him very much longer. The same goes for a sequence in which everyone in Evan's life is happy except himself and his mom, who made herself terminally ill after he was ... Oh, never mind.

As a message, The Butterfly Effect has solidity: Everything in one's life happens for a reason, and going back to change bad moments may not necessarily result in a happily-ever-after ending. As a narrative, though, it holds us at arm's length because nothing in it is permanent -- nothing we see really counts, and no decisions have consequences because Evan can always diddle around with them.

The very end, which depicts a certain poignant self-sacrifice, puts a good cap on the story, but we've been skipping around for almost two hours through various realities -- some of them exceedingly unpleasant -- without much of a point in sight except for the message, which, to put it mildly, is solid but no big news.

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originally posted: 12/28/06 10:51:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/25/19 Dane Youssef Check out the Director's Cut. And brace yourself. Believe me. 5 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell some good ideas but wallows in unpleasantness 3 stars
5/31/12 donald_j_axel Disturbing violence. Negation of existentialism. 3 stars
5/25/12 Dane Youssef Kutcher's first really worthwhile film (and to date, still only). Everything just works. 5 stars
2/19/12 cr a cool movie with awesome effects and a entertaining story. 4 stars
10/09/11 Sam watch the original ending, not the cinema one. 5 stars
9/25/11 Colton Highly Enjoyable 4 stars
4/13/09 Dane Youssef One of 2004's best. A phenomenal film. Warped, crazy. Worthy of Ray Bradbury. 5 stars
1/16/09 Becca Not perfect, but a whole lot more interesting and unique than most movies out there. 4 stars
11/01/08 Kent Original ending is truely sad 5 stars
10/13/08 Shaun Wallner One of my favorite all time films. 5 stars
9/14/08 Shaun This is one of my favourite films along with a garden state. A must watch 5 stars
2/11/08 Mark The best "time-travel" movie ever, great story, a lot of suspense... 5 stars
1/29/08 Bitchflaps Starts off watchable enough, but degenerates into pure hilarity. 3 stars
10/17/07 Beau Its very engaging, well thought out and terrific storyline! 4 stars
8/30/07 Andrew Fantastic film. Keeps you interested, but preferred directors cut ending. One of my Fave's 5 stars
8/11/07 iluvashton i love ashton! We're all so use to seeing him be he protrays a more serious side 5 stars
5/26/07 Katie This is my favorite movie of all time, who cares whether Kutcher stars? Its friggin great. 5 stars
5/24/07 Dave poorly done 1 stars
5/23/07 dude yawn 1 stars
1/17/07 David Pollastrini very well done 5 stars
12/28/06 William Goss Interesting enough premise, although sometimes executed to laughable lengths. 4 stars
10/29/06 jessica kazmierczak i thought that it was the best movie i have ever seen 5 stars
10/15/06 Edward Wala Hey mother fucker, i thought this movie was pretty good, it keeps you thinking 5 stars
8/05/06 Stanley Thai An ingenious film with great performances by Kutcher and Smart. 4 stars
7/31/06 Marty keeps you thinking, kutcher's unimpressive. don't mind the plotholes. 4 stars
4/27/06 Farron Watson Mind warpingly convoluted. Brilliant and moving. I wept like a little schoolgirl. 5 stars
4/22/06 Becky People came in wanting to hate Kutcher, I think. Film had great acting, effects, plot 5 stars
12/09/05 RW Compared to "River's Edge" or "City of God" this is Hollywood trash at its most indulgent k 2 stars
11/27/05 Agent Sands 100% engrossing. Also, Amy Smart is way hotter in this than she usually is. 5 stars
11/24/05 Amanda It was the best movie i have ever seen. The directing and acting was incredible 5 stars
11/05/05 Steve Newman Great film. Definately recommend it. Held my interest the whole time 4 stars
11/01/05 aimee brilliant 5 stars
9/18/05 tony ashton kutcher sucks! 1 stars
9/15/05 Renee is Gabby A fine interesting film that has some guts, worth consideration 4 stars
9/09/05 matt kutcher sucks, the movie is overwrought and overhyped 2 stars
8/13/05 Andrew Excellent movie! Theatrical ending is lame vs great DVD ending. Ashton proves his talent. 5 stars
6/19/05 aldo the dvd has a different ending...which totally Sucks!!! cinema ending much better!!!! 5 stars
6/03/05 ATM Suprisingly good acting and so unique -- makes for an awesome movie! 5 stars
5/20/05 dwarzel Unfairly panned because of Kutcher; I hate him too, but this was good. 4 stars
4/29/05 reptilesni I saw the director's cut. I was surprised how good this film was! 5 stars
4/11/05 ama Although I didn't fall down from my chair it could be because I was sitting on the floor;) 4 stars
4/01/05 failingloser amazing 5 stars
4/01/05 Taylor Fladgate Almost a classic mind-bender a la Momento..but too many plot holes left open. 4 stars
3/18/05 Sheila holds your interest all the way through 5 stars
2/12/05 ALDO Great it if you like .Time travel - destiny changing movies... 5 stars
1/15/05 Landshark some unintentional humor and poorly handled drama...shoulda been better 3 stars
12/07/04 kelsey.mckinnon i thought that thebutterfly efect was a great movie i can wach it over and over again 5 stars
11/27/04 Matt F. I absolutely DETESTED this movie... every scene the characters were different! *cringes* 2 stars
11/20/04 Andrew Bell directors cut is best move ever..ranks with The Crow..but otherwise..not worth watching 5 stars
11/15/04 ben !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!wow~~~~~~~~~~ 5 stars
10/24/04 Anonymus The movie was so good that I actually was modivated enough to go online and rate it five *s 5 stars
10/15/04 dave this goes out to Ry Its awesome, Ry your gay 5 stars
10/09/04 LilyM Like the dvd ending more than the theatrical. But it loses something halfway through. 3 stars
10/09/04 Denise I loved the original end. 5 stars
9/17/04 Roseanne Butler Excellent !!!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/10/04 Stanley Dorvil Deeply Sad. A story about the life of a man who had no soul and could never be born. 5 stars
9/06/04 Samuel the movie was ok, but its like watching Donnie Darko with different actors. 3 stars
8/26/04 kayla this was an amazing movie w/ an awesome storyline!&john patrick amedori(evan 13)is so hot! 4 stars
8/08/04 Ry Magical powers to kill himself in the womb, WOW! 2 stars
8/04/04 Crono Trigger this movie rules it makes me think of the SNES game chrono trigger :D 5 stars
7/21/04 The Talking Elbow worth talking about, but I could have written it better. Leaves me feeling "Blah" 3 stars
7/21/04 Gray Donny Darko was better 3 stars
7/21/04 April Gupton a so sad ending, after all of that keeping up i had to do 3 stars
7/18/04 R.W. Welch Fresh take on the "what if" theme. If you can buy the premise, a good watch. 4 stars
7/18/04 Sarah C. very exciting and thrilling. 5 stars
7/17/04 legend Another tme travel flick. Nothing really new and fair acting. 3 stars
7/14/04 jared I had a lot of endings that would have worked so that they could have been together. 5 stars
7/13/04 Tracey Dorame Even Treborn: Event Reborn... ok... Basically "Flatliners" for the new milennium. 4 stars
7/13/04 Love Great movie! Our actions have consequences, try for the most positive one! Think b4 doing. 5 stars
7/09/04 J Cadiramen Well... this movie was a bit like 'The Mothman Prophesies' in that both are a bit weak. 3 stars
7/07/04 Harry Ending sucks 1 stars
5/13/04  Shaun Rose Not a fan of Ashton, but this movie surprised me, it was pretty good 4 stars
5/12/04 Sniff A good movie with some cool and original ideas, I only wish it had gotten better actors... 3 stars
4/27/04 sdvfds sdvsdvsdv 5 stars
4/24/04 Jenny Tullwartz Might wanna travel back in MY journal&prevent most of characters from being born! 2 stars
4/19/04 Daveman Some film critics you turned out to be! 1 stars
4/04/04 john bale Nightmarish thriller about Stephen King like characters in time travel. Good SFX. 4 stars
4/04/04 lindsey I luv this movie, i cant wait till it comes out to buy, 5 stars
4/02/04 Mike Morgan Pretty much Back To The Future gone mad!. Very dark, and very surreal 5 stars
3/29/04 Megan Casey Unconventional but predictable... if that's possible. 2 stars
3/27/04 God GREAT!!!!!! 5 stars
3/23/04 wog i seriously cant belive people think this is good!! ?? 1 stars
3/17/04 alex not bad movie. the prizon sceens were cool 4 stars
3/17/04 Holly Beeman I'm sorry, but the best part is when Ashton falls out of the chair. 3 stars
3/09/04 J This was the best movie of the year by far. Keeps you on the edge of your seat. FANTSTIC! 5 stars
3/08/04 Dean absolutely loved this movie 5 stars
2/28/04 Katie Omg this is like my favorite movie!! Ashton can really act and hes sooo hott:P 5 stars
2/19/04 Joeshmoe Awesome movie! Wonderfully made. Rocks your socks. 5 stars
2/18/04 Scott According to "Arrow in the Head" on, the original, darker ending will be on DVD. 5 stars
2/15/04 Marcy Great concept, great presentation. One of the best movies out in years. 5 stars
2/14/04 Betsy There is a good movie in here someplace, but then they hired kiss-of-death Kutcher. 1 stars
2/12/04 Serena This movie was F**king awsome best movie this year and last year so far ! 5 stars
2/08/04 Tori Very Impressive movie!!!!! 5 stars
2/08/04 Erin Good movie! Not the all time best, but still good!! 5 stars
2/08/04 Krys I wasn't interested in watching this movie, but was pleasently surprised. 3 stars
2/03/04 someone This was a GREAT film. It's one of my favorites now! 5 stars
2/03/04 Brandon Taber (age15 My favorite movie. Ireprehensible: Not reprehensible; blameless; innocent. Asshole! 5 stars
2/03/04 Rkm What stupid junk. He really can't act! 1 stars
2/03/04 Tony Stunning...make sure you catch the original ending on DVD also 5 stars
2/03/04 max montenegro im not a fan of Ashton, but this movie was great. I was very surprised at the job that hedi 5 stars
2/02/04 Braden Mailloux This movie is made for a dumb audience 1 stars
2/01/04 Marc Best movie I've ever fucking seen!! 5 stars
2/01/04 aseelye One of the best movies I've seen in the past year. 5 stars
1/31/04 VISIBLEH20 AWESOME! 5 stars
1/31/04 Eric Lee Expected it to be crap and wasvery pleasantly surprised that it wasn't. 4 stars
1/31/04 Carl surprisingly good 5 stars
1/31/04 sharott I am going to see it again. 5 stars
1/31/04 tiggerbounc You either love it or be freaked out by it or both. Great movie! 5 stars
1/30/04 Syd Barrett It was much much better than i expected, I also reccomend a look 4 stars
1/30/04 Sara Ortiz I loved it!!! 5 stars
1/30/04 Daniel Cooper I have to say critics are overpaid !!!!holes.. this movie is worth 2 hours of your time. 5 stars
1/29/04 Jeffrey Samples Walked in with an open mine. Walked out a very very very satisfied customer. 5 stars
1/29/04 sjw2 very thought-provoking and entertaining 5 stars
1/28/04 Topher This movie was the bombay! The best movie I've seen in years 5 stars
1/27/04 bollocks Great! Absorbing from start to finish! 5 stars
1/27/04 matt Excellent, thought-provoking movie 5 stars
1/27/04 Jay Pretty good, though sometimes Kelso pops up. 4 stars
1/26/04 DragonNinja Frikkin Awesome 5 stars
1/26/04 k-x exellent and accurate 5 stars
1/26/04 Movie Fan Great 5 stars
1/26/04 Molly This movie was one of the best movies ive ever seen! 5 stars
1/26/04 Ryan W this movie kicked ass... i think they could of roled a different actor than kutcher. 5 stars
1/26/04 Collette I'd like to say the movie was FREAKY! It was SOOO GOOD!!!!! 5 stars
1/26/04 Nick this movie was one of the best movies i have seen in awhile. 5 stars
1/26/04 Margo It sucked for air. 1 stars
1/26/04 J Rock F-bombs definately coulda been limited 4 stars
1/26/04 Sandi Miller I can't wait to own it! 5 stars
1/26/04 Jake This move is mind blowing 5 stars
1/26/04 Dorothy Camerino I don't know what all you guys are talking about cause this movie for sure tripped me out! 5 stars
1/26/04 V.J. i dont understand the neg. reveiws, this movies a hardcore mindfuck man 5 stars
1/26/04 Kyle Miller in my all time top 10 movies 5 stars
1/26/04 nanju One you have to really think about. Do you really want to alter the past? Thought provoking 5 stars
1/26/04 Lena Entertaining and suspenseful despite Kutcher's so-so performance 4 stars
1/26/04 Sea Bass Just wasn't "feeling it" from Kutcher. 2 stars
1/26/04 Marco You get a front seat in this excellent roller coaster ride through hell. 5 stars
1/26/04 Jason Eppert Very Entertaining, I don't understand all of the negative reviews. 4 stars
1/26/04 zeitgeist A total mind-fuck 5 stars
1/26/04 Ben Dover This is a great movie that I really enjoyed, even though the script was less than par. 5 stars
1/25/04 Evan Donnie Darko 4 stars
1/25/04 othree not as tame or lame, good cross over for 'Kelso' & 'Dude!' great cast 4 stars
1/25/04 Andrew Austria Plot works very well, great cast, one of my favorite movies now 5 stars
1/25/04 sb guilty pleasure, twisted rollercoaster ride, no academy award but fun Saturday nite movie 5 stars
1/25/04 Heath Kutcher wasn't bad and the story was excellent! 5 stars
1/25/04 Randy Curll awsome movie.....dont underestimate kutcher in this one 5 stars
1/25/04 Human Shield Wow. Everyone in this movie did phenomenally well. 5 stars
1/25/04 Cyn Awesome performance by Kutcher. Very well written screenplay. 5 stars
1/25/04 0100010101 kutcher wasnt as bad as he's being accused for, the movie was pretty good actually. 5 stars
1/25/04 Jessica Loved the movie 5 stars
1/25/04 Mike Excellent thought provoker 5 stars
1/25/04 amy not bad 4 stars
1/25/04 uli stein Holy Cow! GO SEE IT, NOW! 5 stars
1/25/04 Pam Gruber Amazing 5 stars
1/25/04 Emma D Freakin scary!! but it was hot 4 stars
1/25/04 Jordan L. Amazingly, Kutcher made the film better, not worse. Sick and twisted at time, but sureal. 5 stars
1/25/04 Joe D Fucking Awesome 5 stars
1/25/04 B. C. Great movie!! I was so intrigued by this film-it was very intense and had a lot of twists 5 stars
1/25/04 Jim W Best movie i have seen in a long time! 5 stars
1/25/04 Joe Amazing movie i loved and want to see it agine and agine 5 stars
1/25/04 Lesly I loved it!!! 5 stars
1/25/04 KingNeutron Disturbing on many levels, yet well-acted; and the bleeding makes it just plausible enough. 4 stars
1/25/04 brad alston very unique and original storyline 4 stars
1/25/04 Julie Great story and acting! Keeps you guessing.. 4 stars
1/24/04 Alan Nothing special at all. 2 stars
1/24/04 Brett Amazingly well done. Have never seen anything like it. Will definitely twist your brain. 5 stars
1/24/04 Yasha This movie rocks everything was awesome about it. Brilliant acting especially by Ashton. 5 stars
1/24/04 Mike This movie kicked ass, Ashton Kutcher is a hell of an actor in this movie. 5 stars
1/24/04 Kimberly OMG. The movie had me at the edge of my seat and Ashton's talent really shines through. 5 stars
1/24/04 Jake TBE was excelent Watch donnie darko then TBE and say it didnt ripp you off your seat and make you think 5 stars
1/24/04 Susan Very, very good. Still thinking about it, and will be for a long time, I think. 5 stars
1/24/04 Cora Edwards Ashton Kutcher was great he really shocked I will be telling my friends about this movie. 5 stars
1/24/04 Rob Shockingly inane - save your money and rent Ishtar. Yes. It's really that bad. 1 stars
1/24/04 Ryan McCabe the movie was great!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/24/04 Chris Great Movie. Brilliant story, brilliant scenes, intense scenes! 5 stars
1/24/04 MelissaNYC Chris-irreprehensible: blameless,innocent,not reprehensible. It's a real word, dork. 3 stars
1/24/04 Nick Extremely intense...great scenes...good movie... 4 stars
1/24/04 Ed Believe it or not, it's an excellent flic. The rare flic worth seeing twice! 5 stars
1/24/04 Bosch Dude - where is my movie? Wait for the dvd 3 stars
1/24/04 Kristopher Brilliantly written and directed with great acting. 4 stars
1/24/04 Jeremy Jacobson Great movie 5 stars
1/24/04 Kacey J. Great. And, Reviewer Chris Perry, "irreprehensible" exists in the English language. Duh. 5 stars
1/24/04 Jacko Much more than I expected, Kutcher was actually pretty good 4 stars
1/23/04 Chooch McGee This movie rocks! It will outdo Titanic; it's that d*mn good! 5 stars
1/22/04 Steve This film was amazingly good. The best that I saw this year at sundance. 5 stars
1/22/04 Goose Great Movie! 5 stars
1/21/04 Paylo Carsenstein Kill me now!!! End the pain!!! 1 stars
1/21/04 jimmy much better than i expected. hardly an award winner, but entertaining for sure 4 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Silly, unbelievable, badly acted film; Kutcher should retire already. 1 stars
1/21/04 Tommy Bee It was good, it was better then I thought it would be. 5 stars
1/20/04 Just me Read the Short Story 4 stars
1/20/04 Jeff Marlboro I liked it! I too was expecting Kutcher to suck but he did a solid, unexpected job here. 4 stars
1/20/04 ricky D future midnight movie cult classic 1 stars
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  23-Jan-2004 (R)
  DVD: 06-Jul-2004



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